Zidane and Kuja

        Picking back up with Dissidia, today we have the Final Fantasy IX characters, Zidane and Kuja. Both of them excel in midair attacks, though Zidane is more physical and Kuja is more magical. Accordingly, Zidane is better for close range attacks, while Kuja has more long range viability.
        In any case, let’s move on to the story itself. Zidane’s storyline starts with him traveling with Bartz, the two turning the search for their crystals into a race to see who can find theirs first. This does indeed lead them to find a crystal… but it is a trap laid by Kuja, which teleports Bartz away as soon as he touches it.
        Kefka appears and comments that the trap was meant for Zidane before they battle, Zidane trying to interrogate him for Bartz’s location. Kefka only says that he is “smack dab in enemy territory. Go look for him if you want, but you’ll just be wasting your time!” He then vanishes, leaving Zidane to do exactly that.
        Zidane eventually comes across Squall at the end of his own storyline, about to double teamed by Garland and Ultimecia. The sound of Squall’s speech attracts his attention, and he slams into Garland so Squall can fight the witch one on one. As for his battle with Garland, it ends with neither of them especially hurt, Garland even saying the fight was just what he needed “to work out some of the kinks”, suggesting Zidane’s attacks hardly even phased him. Even he seems a bit rattled by that, but he doesn’t linger on the thought, instead running to tell Squall about Bartz being captured like he does in Squall’s ending.
        This leads the two to follow the path set by Squall’s crystal, and eventually they run into Bartz, who not only escaped the villains, but apparently stole a crystal from them while he was at it! However, like the previous crystal, this one is a trap, specifically meant to warp Zidane somewhere when he alone touches it, right into Kuja’s clutches. Kuja mocks him for falling into the trap, and tells him that now that he is so far away, he will have no way to help his friends. “Like a bird in a cage, you can only listen as they scream in terror.” Kuja vanishes, presumably to let him stew on that.
        As Zidane wanders alone, he is visited by Cosmos, who attempts to lighten his spirits. She reassures him that his friends, after all, are far from weak, and will likely be fine until he returns to them. This gives Zidane the encouragement he needs to keep going, and he soon comes across Kuja again.
        His assurance that he will reach his friends again irritates the villain, who actually seems confused as to why he wants to go back to them so badly, assuming at first that he simply hates being on his own. Zidane points out Kuja should understand- he has friends, right? Kuja takes offense to being associated with the other villains, animals he calls them, and fires a couple of shots at Zidane out of frustration. He then laughs, a somewhat deranged look on his face, as the battle begins.
        Naturally, it ends in Zidane’s victory, and Zidane finally gets his true crystal. He looks at the defeated Kuja, seeming remorseful, and asks him if it’s really so hard for him to trust someone. Kuja shouts that trust is worthless, because if you need to truth in others, you will be powerless alone- despite Zidane just proving otherwise. Zidane says much the same, that since he has friends he can trust, he is never truly alone. This only angers Kuja further, and he insists that “when the curtain falls, it will be I who basks in the applause.” He vanishes, and the crystal leads Zidane back to his friends.
        So that’s it for Zidane’s story, but as for his gameplay, like I said, he specializes in air strikes. While his ground attacks aren’t the best, he is “unequaled in midair combat”, as the game itself puts it, able to easily launch enemies into the air and is very quick to follow up. He is also exceptionally quick on the ground or in the air, though his individual strikes are lacking in power. As stated, he is best used up close- he does have some ranged attacks, such as Solution 9, which fires a barrage of projectiles, but most of his aren’t very impressive.
        His Vortex move is very useful though- if he’s in the air he can launch himself higher while spinning his blades, hurting the enemy and getting more elevation. In addition, his basic ground and air moves, Rumble Rush and Swift Attack, both chain into the HP move Meo Twister, and since you will be spending a lot of time in the air, Swift Attack will be quite easy to pull off.
        As for his normal HP moves, on the ground he has Tidal Flame, which produces a spinning fireball that shoots along the ground after the enemy. It’s fast, but easily avoided. More useful is Stellar Circle 5, which produced a large magical tornado around himself to trap enemies and knock them into the air. In the air he has Free Energy, a very close range blast that goes off near-instantly, making it difficult to avoid. Grand Lethal has him ram into the enemy like a flying drill, and lastly Shift Break produces a surge of lightning and water magic at the enemy’s location that pulls them in and zaps them before sending them flying.
        Finally we come to his EX Mode, Trance. He transforms into the form of the same name from his original game, and becomes even more nimble than before. Aside from the critical boost, he can jump ten more times, while in midair, giving him an absurd amount of air time, even disregarding other jump boosts he may already have. He also becomes temporarily invincible when he jumps.
        His EX Burst, Reverse Gaia, is an original move where he slashes then opponent repeatedly while you press the Circle button, filling up a gauge, which also shows two planets, his and Kuja’s coming together. If you do everything properly, the two will meet and the gauge will fill, and Zidane will finish off the foe with a spin attack.
        Moving on to Kuja, he has a surprising amount of story. In 012, we first see him talk to Cloud, then on the side of Chaos, and they both express a lack of interest in battling the warriors of Cosmos, a sharp contrast to how he acts in Zidane’s storyline, where he seemed obsessed with capturing and tormenting Zidane.
        His lack of interest, as he talks about with Cloud, comes from the fact that they both well remember who they once knew before all of this, and they were dragged here to do battle- even if the person on the opposing side isn’t truly the person they hated, such as Cloud and Sephiroth, and if fact, for Cloud, his enemy this time around would be Tifa, who was nothing but a friend to him before.
        In that light, it makes a lot of sense why they would choose not to battle- they have no reason to do so, no personal stake in the war between gods. Cloud asks if Kuja means to fight, and he says no as well, as he has no reason to, the outcome being obvious to him. “Even without my voice, the hymn praising Chaos will not skip the smallest note.” When asked about Zidane, he states he doesn’t care what happens to him. None of the memories of this world matter, he says, so if he is to enjoy anything, it would be the memories of where he came from.
        He leaves, as does Cloud, and the viewer sees that Kefka has been watching the entire time, and is not happy that they have decided not to battle. He decides he has to intervene.
        We later see via reports you unlock throughout the game that before the Manikins start to appear, Kuja is intervening in things, not by battling the heroes, but instead helping them, pretending to be a Cosmos warrior. He does not stick around to be friends with them, but instead busies himself trying to help the others find a way to challenge Chaos directly instead of forcing their way past his minions first, as if Chaos is beaten, the others will fade away. This of course includes Kuja himself, but he doesn’t seem to mind.
        He is later bothered by Kefka, who seems to know Kuja is up to something, but not exactly what. Kuja simply says that Kefka’s voice disgusts him and leaves. Kefka, however, knows more than he seems, and informs the Emperor that Kuja is up to some ‘grand scheme’ behind their backs. Though he frames it as Kuja planning to betray the Cosmos warriors, they all know that isn’t the case, but simply a good story to get said warriors to think Kuja is against them.
        Kuja eventually runs into Terra, who at the time was controlled by Kefka entirely. He at first considers altering the magic on her so she would serve him instead of Kefka, to be used to destroy him, but then changes his mind, instead removing the mind control and allowing Terra to make her own choices.
        The next report shows this has infuriated Kefka to no end, as now Terra has the will to say she doesn’t want to fight. The Emperor and Ultimecia arrive, and Kefka leads them to Kuja’s location. As for him, he is meeting up with Zidane, Squall, and Bartz. He tells them the villains are up to something, and is about to leave before Squall stops him, uncertain if he is on their side.
        The Emperor shows up at the same time, commenting that the three of them may perhaps be planning an ambush on Kuja, before the other two arrive, acting as though Kuja is indeed a warrior of Cosmos, and Kefka introduces them to the Manikins for the first time. They completely ignore Kuja, which naturally gets Kefka talking, all but stating that if they’re ignoring him, he must be working for Chaos.
        In order to save the others from the Manikins and the other three villains, Kuja battles all three of the heroes at once, and purposely lets them escape. The other villains let him off with a warning not to drag them into his messes, while Kefka sticks around to irritate him, giving mock sympathy for his failed plan. Kuja jabs back by rhetorically asking how Terra is doing before leaving. Kefka, however, has further plans for Kuja, saying that the ‘real show’ will come after Kuja is beaten. After all, having lost Zidane’s trust, Kuja’s lost all reason not to join in the fighting, as he will have no hope of making another plot.
        Sure enough, in the first 012 chapter, taking place after the reports, we see Laguna, Tifa, Vaan, and Lightning all running from the Manikins, only to be intercepted by Kefka and Kuja. Lightning battles Kuja, while the others fight off the Manikins that caught up to get them an escape route. Kuja loses to Lightning, and Kefka is, of course, there to mock him as he dies. Once he’s gone, he talks to himself about how this will be the end of his ‘rebellious phase’ and ponders what ‘deliciously depraved memories’ he should give Kuja when he reappears again.
        As Zidane’s storyline shows, he gave Kuja a serious inferiority complex, wanting to prove himself more capable than the other warriors of Chaos, and a newfound desire to see Zidane suffer, leading into him becoming the participant in the war that Kefka wanted him to be for his own sick entertainment.
        And that, sadly, is the end of Kuja’s story. However, in terms of battle he is certainly an impressive fighter, so he is still fun to play as. Like Zidane he specializes in midair attacks, and in fact he is the only character who can use Glide out of EX Mode, and can attack while floating, either in the air or on the ground. Oddly, all of his attacks seem to be variations of two spells- Holy and Flare, some of the most powerful white and black magic spells, respectively.
        He in turn uses these two spells as the basis for all of his attacks, transforming it in some way. The Holy part in particular seems to be used via the glowing orbs that follow him around, and he uses them for the closest thing to physical attacks that he has, smashing his foes with them. Like Zidane, when he does so this tends to knock his enemies in the air, where he has supremacy.
        While his attacks are fairly predictable and do not do an exceptional amount of damage on their own, they often lead into further attacks, and have good range, such as firing out homing rings to slowly track the enemy, fireballs, or just smashing them with his orbs, which he has two moves to do, with different ranges and follow ups.As for his HP moves, first is Seraphic Star, where he fires out a Holy blast that swells and homes in on the enemy briefly before exploding. Flare Star is second, using a Flare blast in front of himself that splits into five points, the opening attack, then they collide with an explosion to damage a trapped enemy. Close range, but very good in midair.
        Force Symphony can only be used in the air, and basically has him float and bombard the ground with explosive magic bombs, following the enemy as he does. Lastly he has Ultima, the only move to really break the trend, where he drops a barrage of shots down on the enemy’s location, doing a lot of Brave damage before there’s finally a bigger explosion to finish them off. It is easy to avoid if you keep moving, but if you are stuck in place for whatever reason it is pretty much unavoidable, and can be used at almost any distance.
        Lastly there is his EX Mode, Trance, like Zidane’s. He shares the critical boost, but nothing else. His Glide is replaced by Hyper Glide, which can keep him airborne nearly indefinitely and I think goes faster. He also has the Auto Magic ability, where simply jumping, moving and so on has his orbs produce weak magical Brave attacks, protecting him and letting him harm enemies in new ways. His Ex Burst is Final Requiem, where he has his orbs drop magical bombs and so on on the enemy while you press Circle to charge up, same as Zidane, culminating in a barrage of Ultima spells to finish them off.

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